Getting Used to Economy Class

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Yissachar is like a donkey with strong bones, who rests between the boundaries. He sees that tranquility is good, and he tilts his shoulder to carry the load (Bereishis 49:14-15). 

 

Yissachar is the tribe that is sovel, who carries, the load of Torah. But what does that have to do with peace and tranquility? If someone wants peace and tranquility, we wouldn’t expect them to carry a load, but to sit down and relax.  

Rav Yerucham Levovitz (Daas Torah vol. I, p. 280) tells us otherwise. Though we are led to believe that menuchah comes from giving the body rest, it’s the exact opposite. If our serenity derives from physical contentment and fulfillment and having every need met, that’s the source of all confusion, the opposite of menuchah. If we are only accustomed to serenity under specific conditions, and we need to have all those conditions met to attain that serenity, then when those conditions are lacking, we’re going to be thrown out of whack.   

When we get used to any luxury, it quickly becomes a necessity. This is known as the law of diminishing returns. A brand-new luxury car provides a wonderful feeling of pleasure and excitement when first driven. A week goes by, and that excitement begins to diminish. In a month’s time, it no longer feels luxurious. A few weeks later, the driver begins to think about the lease expiring in about three years, and his mind veers to the various makes and models even more luxurious.    

This can also apply to air travel. If we are accustomed to flying only business class, we are going to be miserable when business class is booked and we are “demoted” to coach.  

If we wish to train ourselves to enjoy flying, we are best off sitting in economy class.  

Feeding our wants is like attempting to extinguish a fire with oil. Yes, for a moment, the fire will go down, but soon enough it will flare up even more fiercely. This can also be compared to quenching one’s thirst with salt water. For a moment the thirst recedes, but in time we find ourselves even thirstier. 

 So what do we do?  

Rav Yerucham gives another illustration. How is a soldier trained? Not in air-conditioned hotels with lavish meals and days spent lounging on beach chairs. Navy SEALs, for instance, undergo rigorous training under brutal conditions, with minimal nourishment and sleep, and absolutely no pleasures or extras.  Yet after completing their formal training, they are equipped to endure the physical and mental challenges of any mission with a clear mind.  

This, continues Rav Yerucham, is the meaning of the pasuk cited above. Yissachar saw the true meaning of menuchah and said to himself, “If I want menuchah, I must be sovel; I must be able to tolerate difficult situations.” 

In today’s world, Rav Yerucham laments, we are so fragile. If a groom is missing a small item (nowadays something along the lines of cuff links), he falls apart. We can’t handle when every little detail isn’t exactly the way we like. We think that we’re making ourselves stronger and better by putting recessed heat in the bathroom tiles, so that when we go into the bathtub, our toes won’t be cold! 

This fragility goes beyond our inability to handle insults and affronts. We have difficulty tolerating even a bit of pain. If we think we may possibly be coming down with a mild headache, we immediately pop some ibuprofen or acetaminophen.   At the end of the day, our inability to tolerate any inconvenience or discomfort causes a lack of peace of mind, not the peace of mind one would expect.  

 

TAKEAWAY  

The next time you are faced with a minor inconvenience, such as sitting in traffic, don’t fix it. Don’t change lanes. Remain in your lane, despite the crawling traffic, and tolerate it, accept it, and live with the situation.  

Learn to “fly economy class.”